Celebrating the Mighty Chicken

Celebrating the Mighty Chicken

This week we interrupt our usual garden-related article series with a celebration of one of the stalwarts of the world’s agriculture systems: the mighty Chicken.

Why are we celebrating chickens?

Well locally, the Hillsborough County Commission has, as of Thursday 09/24/2020, unanimously and without argument, passed an ordinance allowing chickens to be raised on residential properties in unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County.  


With a few caveats (of course – it is government!) the freedom to raise these magnificent birds for eggs and meat has been returned to the people of our county.  It is the first step of many that are needed.

Hillsborough County residents in unincorporated areas where there is no HOA or deed restrictions can now legally own chickens WITHOUT being zoned agricultural.

Friends, this is TRULY EXCITING. Why? Because it is one step closer to erasing the constrictions on your ability to be self-sustainable on your own property where you work, live, play, and raise your family. This is an eradication of a government restriction that took away your ability to pursue your freedom to raise your own food on land that you paid for.  It is the relaxation of a stranglehold that has been present for decades, which was based on the (quite misplaced) assumption that our mass production food infrastructure could handle ANYTHING that happened.

Well, COVID-19 showed a lot of cracks in that facade, don’t you think?

Human History is Closely Tied to Chickens

For a couple of centuries in the US, and for millenia in Europe and Asia, chickens have been kept in order to help keep people and families fed.  During the World Wars, having gardens and chickens was considered our patriotic duty to help feed ourselves, our neighbors, and our nation.  Citizens felt the responsibility to feed themselves and created their lives around their homesteads, even in the cities and towns.

War posters urging people to keep laying hens

War posters urging people to keep laying hens – “Food Will Win The War” was a slogan often heard.

As urban sprawl happened, the mass-production of processed foods and the increased ability of fresh goods to be trucked and flown all over the nation and the world, decreased the desire to provide for ourselves.  It was much easier to go to a store and get what you wanted – no matter if it was from the farmer down the road, or in another country.  With the wars and that military experience revolutionizing the way goods were manufactured and transported into each home, we as a nation began to rely more heavily on stores to bring us food, instead of raising it ourselves.  We began the journey to where we are today – a society of Convenience as King.  It became “unpopular” to be a farmer.  Why get dirty and deal with the mess of animals when you could go to a supermarket to get food and not even break a sweat?

The Smallest Thing Can Drastically Change Everything

This year, our distribution system was struck down by a tiny virus, and the few farms that still operate couldn’t sell their products.  Workers were laid off because the ability to truck their crops to distant lands was terminated, crops rotted in the fields, grocery store shelves were bare, and there was nothing anyone could do.  Families went hungry, or only ate boxed and canned goods.  No milk, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes. No produce at all.

Empty Product Shelves

Empty Produce Shelves during COVID-19, while crops rotted in the fields.

Unless you were one of the people who had a garden.  And chickens.  You could eat what you grew, and you had a source of protein, of meat, of vegetables, and if you had too much you could trade others for the other things you needed.

It didn’t seem to take too long for some of the distribution to heal itself.  So the shelves weren’t barren for too long.  BUT…I believe for many people, this year was a wake up call.  And for those who heard that call, the message was clear: Be Prepared to Care for You and Yours On Your Own.  

There’s a shorter word for that message: Self-Sustainability.

Sustainability is the only viable future

 Man brings caged chickens to his backyard for some free-ranging time

Chickens come out for some free-ranging time in this man’s back yard. “Coop-kept” doesn’t mean they can’t roam in your yard. They just have to be kept cooped at night for their protection.

Sustainability has many aspects.  To individuals like those reading this right now, it means: Returning to the land.  Growing what you eat.  Knowing where your food comes from, and teaching your children about that, and about being responsible for the well-being of themselves, their family, their garden, and their flock, and the neighborhood and community outside themselves. Harvesting what you grow that afternoon and eating it that night.  Being in control of your health and nutrition.  Getting the fresh air, exercise, movement, and sunshine our bodies need to thrive.  Knowing that if grocery store shelves go bare again, you can make due with what you have.

Sustainability is our message too here at Shell’s. We know a thing or two about being sustainable.  Next year, 2021, will mark 60 years that we’ve had the privilege of serving our wonderful Tampa Bay communities.  The way we will continue onward is by providing to the best of our abilities the goods you need to be self-sustaining, and to back that up with knowledge, education and other resources to help you succeed in your projects centered around backyard farming, gardening, pets, and more.  We truly are here to help.

Model for Sustainability and all the factors that should be considered.

Sustainability Model where all the factors that affect humanity as a whole are considered when making policies and decisions around sustainable models of productivity and growth.

In the coming months, you’ll see some great changes at our store.  They’ll be subtle at first.  But, our goal is important: building a wonderful local community of gardeners, farmers, and other sustainability-minded people, and growing our product selection to support those of you who want to join in on the fun, the sense of accomplishment, AND the freedom that is Growing Your Own.

If you don’t have your own land to start your own movement towards sustainability for your family, it’s OK.  There are MANY community gardens already in place (and more springing up) all over Tampa Bay where you can apply your hard work and reap the rewards, and share with others who feel the same way.

If this sounds like an adventure you want to start, or if you’re already on that path, we’re here for you.  Stop in and see us.

I’ll leave you with this thought as you leap into October:

Today, we celebrate the mighty chicken.  Tomorrow, we build a more sustainable world.

Until next time,

Keep Growing!


7 responses to “Celebrating the Mighty Chicken”

  1. Flavia says:

    Great! So glad for you all. Where I live no chickens allowed…

  2. Holly says:

    Just wondering if you are sure about chickens not needing to be in the coop at all times. It certainly seemed that way when I heard the ordinance read. Thanks for clarification. Smiles!

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      I’m waiting for the final ordinance to be published (that they filed with the state – has that been done yet? If yes I haven’t seen it!). If it’s been ruled that they are pets, I can’t imagine that if your are supervising them that they couldn’t ever be let out (I mean, could you imagine telling a cat owner that they could never let their cat out of a cage?). I will confirm, however, and update!

      • Marissa Byrum says:

        Hello again!
        Well I didn’t see the official publishing so I went to the proposed ordinance. Here’s the rules for unincorporated Hillsborough County, and to answer your question, pay attention to #3!

        Sec. 6.11.129. Backyard Chickens
        The keeping of chickens shall be allowed in certain residential zoning districts as
        provided by Section 2.02.02, Table of Allowable Uses in Zoning Districts, subject to the
        following requirements. Approval of a Conditional Use zoning permit shall not be
        1. The activity shall be accessory to a detached single-family use or two-family
        attached (duplex) use of the parcel.
        2. No more than five hens and pullets in total shall be kept on the parcel at any time.
        The keeping of roosters, capons or cockerels shall be prohibited.
        3. The chickens shall be confined to a fully enclosed coop at all times. For purposes
        of this regulation, a coop shall be defined as a structure, enclosure or cage for
        housing the chickens.
        4. The coop shall be located in the functional rear yard of the lot. The coop shall
        have a maximum height of six feet and maximum ground coverage of 150 square
        5. The coop shall be set back a minimum of 10 feet from side and rear lot lines and
        shall comply with the required front yard setback of the property’s zoning, except
        that on a through lot with a required front yard that functions as a rear yard, a
        minimum rear setback of 10 feet shall be permitted.
        6. No chickens shall be slaughtered on the parcel.
        7. The on-site sale of eggs shall be prohibited.
        8. These requirements shall not be waived or varied.
        9. These regulations do not affect deed restrictions or covenants concerning

        That said…as with the previous ordinance, it will only be enforced if someone complains about a certain residence. So, comply with the law. But know that you’ll only be cited if code enforcement is called and you’re not following the law when they arrive. This comes, by the way, straight from a code enforcement officer I spoke to about code enforcement in general (because I was curious!).

  3. erin saucedo says:

    how do we know if we live in unrestricted hillsborough county?

    • Marissa Byrum says:

      Hi Erin, good question. I look at it this way: 1) Are you in Hillsborough County? If yes, 2) Are you in a city (officially within city limits) like Tampa, Temple Terrace, etc. If no, 3) Are you restricted by an HOA or a deed restriction? If no, then you’re probably OK. I would, however, contact the Zoning and Land Use office to be sure about your specific address. Or you could try the Extension office for Hillsborough. They’re hopefully updated!

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